The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

A number of residents here in West Chester, Pennsylvania, have signed on with Brandywine Valley Heating & Air Conditioning to transform their homes into geothermal homes. Still apprehensive about geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Knowing a bit of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – might help.

We’ve mentioned elsewhere the rewards of geothermal heating and cooling. Suffice it to say here that hardly any other methods of maintaining apleasant home environment whatever the season are as efficient, trustworthy, or ultimately thrifty, particularlly when you gauge the energy savings.

Here’s how geothermal works its magic.

Thar’s Gold Heat in Them Thar Hills!

We mine the earth for precious metals. We drill the earth for oil. Now, to an extraordinary degree, we’re tapping the earth for an asset no doubt just as valuable to most of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t entail oil.

You see, right under the earth’s crust – that would be, oh, say, 33,000 feet under our feet – is a mantle of magma. This is a molten and semi-molten brew, primarily of silicates, in which temperatures run from 1300 degrees Fahrenheit to 2400 degrees Fahrenheit and hotter the deeper you go (not that you’d want to go there!). What this serves to do is keep the ground immediately under the earth’s surface at a reasonably constant year-round temperature of between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. So? Underground temperatures in West Chester (and essentially everywhere stateside, in any event) are warmer than the ambient air above ground in Winter and cooler than the ambient air above ground in Summer.

Time to Get Pumped!

The function, then, of a geothermal heating and cooling system is to|Underground temperatures being what they are, then, it’s the task of a geothermal heating and cooling system to transfer heat from the ground  to your home or heat from your home to the ground, as the season dictates. Either way, your home remains at the perfect temperature to keep you and your family comfy year-round.

The mechanism that accomplishes the transfer is a geothermal heat pump. It continuously circulates water or some mixture (predominantly antifreeze) between your home and loops of piping (predominantly made of polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, PVC, or CPVC) buried in the ground. In Winter, the liquid is cold when it enters the ground. As it flows through the loops, it sucks up heat from the earth and is reintroduced to your home warm. In Summer, the process is reversed: warm liquid is brought into the loops, where it absorbs the cooler ground temperatures before it’s returned to your home. Need details? You’ll find more specific information on ground loops here.

The central point is that geothermal heating and cooling systems don’t produce energy. They’re not like central heating systems, which generate heat themselves. Instead, geothermal systems heat and cool your home by putting to use the energy already amply available beneath the earth’s surface. That’s why geothermal systems are not only quieter but also a lot more dependable, need less maintenance, have much longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than old-school HVACs. That’s also why, in the long run, you’ll save a lot more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? Talk with Brandywine Valley Heating & Air Conditioning, your West Chester geothermal heating and cooling specialist, today.